COLUMBIA, Mo. (School release)– Missouri rallied from a 2-0 deficit to score three runs in the seventh and two in the eighth to hand the No. 17 Tennessee baseball team its second loss of the season, 5-2, on the opening night of Southeastern Conference action Friday.
The Tigers (9-7, 1-0) used two singles and a UT throwing error to tie the game at 2-2 in the seventh, and took a 3-2 lead – its first of the game – with a sacrifice fly. Mizzou strung together a single and two doubles to tack on two insurance runs in the eighth to take the 5-2 advantage.
Senior right-handed pitcher Nick Williams tossed six scoreless innings for the Volunteers (15-2, 0-1), giving up four hits and one walk while striking out four. However, the Knoxville native's pitch count was at a season-high 109 pitches after six frames. The UT bullpen, which has secured six wins and seven saves entering SEC play, was unable to hold off the Tigers.
"I took Nick out after six innings because he threw 109 pitches," said head coach Dave Serrano. "That's the most he's gone all year; I'm in this for the long haul. I put a lot of faith in our bullpen and it didn't come through for us tonight, which was disappointing.
"I just felt – and I don't know if it was because it was our first SEC game – that we're getting a little jumpy offensively. We're not showing patience like we have throughout the majority of the year and right now we've become a lot easier outs for what I feel is a very good offensive team. You have to give credit to Missouri. I thought (Brett) Graves pitched well tonight and they went to their closer, who made it tough on us. We'll have to show some character and toughness in the doubleheader tomorrow."
Graves, the Mizzou starter who came into the game with a 2-0 record and 0.98 ERA, allowed seven hits and two runs while striking out four Vols over seven innings of work to earn his third win. Keaton Steele, the Tigers' designated hitter all game came in to earn a six-out save, his fifth of the season.
Scott Price and Christin Stewart recorded multi-hit games for the Vols, who were out-hit by the Tigers by a 9-8 margin. Tennessee left nine on base and was 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. Price delivered his team-leading third home run of the season with two down in the seventh, sending a 1-0 pitch over the right-center wall to put Tennessee on top 2-0.
Both teams put runners in scoring position in the first frame, but neither was able to plate a run. After a leadoff triple, Mizzou's Eric Anderson was gunned down at the plate by Tennessee first baseman Nathaniel Maggio. Sophomore catcher David Houser put on a perfect block and tag to get the Vols out of the jam.
Reigning SEC Player of the Week Nick Senzel picked up the Vols' first hit of the night, singling through the left side of the Missouri infield in the fourth. The single extended his reached base streak to a team-best 16 games. Following a fielder's choice by Vincent Jackson, Stewart one-hopped a RBI double off the left field wall to bring Jackson around to score from first and put UT on top 1-0. It was Stewart's team-leading sixth double of the season and his 13th RBI.
Sophomore shortstop A.J. Simcox extended his hit streak to a team-best eight games with a two-out single in the seventh.
Junior college transfer Peter Lenstrohm came on for Williams in the seventh. Lenstrohm, who picked up his first loss of the season, gave up three runs on two hits in 1/3 of an inning. Josh Peterson pitched the final 1 1/3 innings for the Orange and White.
Tennessee brought the tying run to the plate twice in the ninth, but Price and Simcox were unable to deliver as they both flew out to Tiger outfielders.
Due to expected inclement weather on Sunday, the Vols and Tigers will now play a doubleheader on Saturday at Taylor Stadium. Game one's first pitch is slated for 2 p.m. ET. The Vols will throw freshman Hunter Martin (2-0, 0.00) in game one and Andrew Lee (2-0, 3.98) in game two.